COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | MARK J. RIEDY

America’s Flagship City

Imagine flying into Lindbergh Field at night and seeing out the left-side windows all the major high-rises with rooftop spotlights shining on large American flags waving their welcome to visitors and returning San Diegans. On the right, the building housing the iconic Bertrand at Mr. A’s proudly displays an equally impressive flag properly lit up in the night sky.

A forest of large American flags defining our city’s skyline would be a strong antidote at a time when our country seems poised to tear itself apart in the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore and waves of international terrorism. San Diego would become a beacon of hope and healing for the world to see and display:

• A statement of pride in the military presence, from Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Naval Air Station North Island and to the U.S. Navy SEAL teams and others at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

• The greatest symbol of America’s dedication to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at home and abroad. Patriotism not as a cold concept on a piece of paper, but a warm spot in the hearts of millions.

• A reminder transcending partisan politics, ethnicity, religious beliefs and every other dividing line imaginable, that in the end America is “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Think of the visceral intensity of patriotism sweeping the country after Sept. 11, 2001, or how you feel when “The Star-Spangled Banner” salutes America’s Olympic champions hoisting Old Glory over their heads.

There is no better representation of America at its best — America in triumph, America’s fighting spirit — than the American flag.

At present, there is a highly visible flag atop 1 Columbia Place, a high-rise office building in downtown San Diego. It stands as a lone sentinel. The property manager for 1 Columbia Place kindly let me know that the flag measures 30 by 50 feet, which explains its terrific visibility. Adding similarly visible flags on the rooftops of the other 100-plus downtown high-rises would be an awesome sight.

The Flagship Project would involve costs and might need regulatory review. Buildings close to the Lindbergh Airport flight path could raise safety concerns, but each challenge is identifiable, and can be dealt with effectively if the community gets behind this Flagship Project. Political will is paramount.

The ingredients for success exist today. San Diego is blessed with wonderfully generous benefactors, civic and military foundations, and current and former military members as well as patriotic citizens throughout the San Diego region.

It is easy to envision members of building trades, electricians and structural engineers volunteering to honor every request for a rooftop beacon. Property owners in turn would be able to link to a Flagship Project website, commit to participate, request their complimentary flag, and get into the queue for the teams doing the work.

Taking a page from the Adopt-A-Highway program, the Flagship Project could include an Adopt-A-Flag campaign in which churches, youth organizations, schools and other groups take responsibility for raising the money to sponsor the installation, maintenance and social media publicity for specific flags. What an effective way to light the fire of patriotism in the next generation of San Diegans!

Another approach would be to emulate the Business Improvement District concept with a Skyline Improvement District of self-taxation for businesses. I assume such a district could be designed to accept donations to fund rooftop flag installations.

Long ago my late brother, Keith, sensitized me to the term “flagship.” He served on a U.S. Navy flagship and I’ll never forget his pride in its special designation and role.

In popular terminology, a flagship denotes the lead ship in a fleet, the one carrying an admiral, the pride of the fleet. “Flagship” also appears in business literature, for example, a “flagship store.” Metaphorically, the term implies high profile, and qualities associated with leadership.

Reverence for the American flag is broadly based and nonpartisan. It would draw people in, rather than be exclusionary. This project is nation-leading and likely to draw worldwide attention, while showcasing San Diego at its best. The Flagship Project is exciting because it:

• Honors this region’s military strength and traditions.

• Reflects San Diego’s industry-leading companies, its can-do entrepreneurs and world-renowned researchers.

• Makes an unequivocal statement of the pride all San Diegan’s feel about the American flag and everything it stands for.

• Rejoices in the freedoms that Americans so treasure.

The next step is to begin a communitywide dialogue around this question: Should San Diego change its nickname from “America’s Finest City” to “America’s Flagship City”?


Riedy is former executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego.

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4 UserComments
Kara 12:00am May 27, 2015

Fantastic idea Uncle Mark!

Stan Wilson 12:00am May 26, 2015

I like this for so many reasons. Patriotism and reminding everyone where you are, why you are here and how you got here. A flag on building tops with up lights for optional night viewing. Flag must comedown for night if not illuminated. Each building based on it's size would qualify for a particular scaled size flag. Permitting should be required for the simple fact of safety. These can be large structual installations that need engineering, somewhere needs to be a monitoring devise. Especially with height and airport considerations. Stan

Stan Wilson 12:00am May 25, 2015

I like this for so many reasons. Patriotism and reminding everyone where you are, why you are here and how you got here. A flag on building tops with up lights for optional night viewing. Flag must comedown for night if not illuminated. Each building based on it's size would qualify for a particular scaled size flag. Permitting should be required for the simple fact of safety. These can be large structual installations that need engineering, somewhere needs to be a monitoring devise. Especially with height and airport considerations. Stan

Bob Taylor 12:00am May 25, 2015

Mark - thank you for this thought-provoking piece. Despite our flaws and differences, let us all in the United States stand united and proud, and remain the beacon for hope and freedom everywhere. And what a great place to start - San Diego!